Johannesburg A poem about an unapologetic city

In Words
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Johannesburg doesn’t ask for permission
All the way from Oliver Thambo
(Who also got tired of asking for permission to live)
Which is where you land before the highways scoop you up
(Without asking for permission)
And drive you East, West, North, and South
Where the city spreads outwards
(Without asking for permission)
And the drivers cut into your lane
(Without asking for permission)
And hoot-hoot-hoot! Fucking Gauteng drivers!
All the way into Soweto where people were dumped
(Without asking for their permission)
And Mondays don’t need permission to be a Friday
And into Braamfontein and Maboneng
Where art is on the walls and the bridge pylons
And on the street and everywhere
(Because no one asks for permission)
And everyone wears the latest fashions
To honour days past and it’s all futurism
But also postcolonial and post-post-permission
And when you squeeze past someone
At Feel Good or at Jazz In Our Lifetime
Or order a drink at at the bar
You remember your small-town manners because
People who look like you have to ask for permission
And you’ve also lived in that Other City By The Sea
Where everyone who looks like you
Asks for permission all of the damn time
And that’s just the way it is
But when you ask for permission in Johannesburg
Everyone looks at you funny because
Eh chief clearly you’re not from around here
Because Johannesburg doesn’t ask for permission.

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa.
Photographer: Rémy Ngamije